Public Engagement

How do we see the unseeable? How are scientists shining a light on cancer? How can laser beams be used as tweezers and scissors?

Light is all around us and it is being used in incredible ways in medicine and biology. Light can be used to image microscopic objects such as cells, bacteria and small organisms. In healthcare, light can be used to treat a number of medical conditions, such as certain types of cancer. Light is also a useful research tool. Laser beams can be used to trap and move tiny objects and to punch holes in them.

We have a suite of demonstrations and activities suitable for all audiences and events, and are always open to supporting events to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Some of our recent activities are detailed below

Curiosity Live!, 7th November 2019

A team from the Optical Manipulation Group, with colleagues from the Gather Lab and the Brown Group, travelled to Glasgow Science Centre for their Curiosity Live! event on 7th November. The event was attended by over 1000 children from local primary schools as well as members of the general public.

Among our demonstrations was an introduction to fluorescence, spectra and spectroscopy for chemical analysis, with visitors challenged to identify “poisoned” apple juice, with validation provided by our portable Raman Spectrometer. The Science of Levitation was popular as always, alongside an overview of light guiding in optical fibers and the live pepper-oscopy! Finally, we had a busy time providing instruction for the construction of over 250 cardboard cameras using everyday items.

Fife Science Festival, 2nd June 2018

Visitors to Science Adventure at Cowdenbeath Leisure Centre on Saturday 2nd June enjoyed activities demonstrating light, microscopes, and optical trapping at our Seeing Life through a New Light event, as part of Fife Science Festival 2018. 

The event, run by group members Adrià Montalbán, Roopam Gupta, and Federico Gasparoli showcased a range of techniques and technologies where light is having a huge impact in biomedicine, as well as our new demonstration of acoustic levitation. Here small objects can be trapped between two arrays of loudspeakers, in analogy to optical tweezers.

PI: Seeing Life through a New Light, Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, 15th July 2017

Over 900 visitors at the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester on Saturday 15th July enjoyed activities including the “Orange juice challenge”, making pin-hole cameras, performing pepper-oscopies, and learning about light, microscopes, displays, and optical trapping at our Seeing Life through a New Light event.

The event was part of the Museum’s monthly Platform for Investigation, inviting scientists to present cutting-edge research to visitors of all ages on a purpose-built, high-tech platform. Answering this call were students and staff from the Universities of St Andrews and York, in the groups of Profs Kishan Dholakia, Malte Gather, and Thomas Krauss. This event was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).